How to Celebrate Thanksgiving: A History


How can your family celebrate Thanksgiving Day by honoring its true meaning? Learn more about the roots of this November holiday we call Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a family-focused time of the year. It’s a day set aside to remember to reflect and give thanks for the blessings we have received, for the good things in our life, and for the people who we are fortunate to share it with. As we continue on into the 21st century, Thanksgiving is a holiday some might consider controversial.

Origin of Thanksgiving

It is said Thanksgiving truly began in England, where harvest-home ceremonies took place. This was a time where people gave thanks to God for their successful harvest and abundant crops. Eventually the celebration evolved into a tradition, recognized after the crops have been harvested, usually in November. It is now a time where families give thanks for what is occurring in their own lives, farming or non-farm related.

However, the first documented Thanksgiving observance occurred in December of 1619 when a group of 38 English settlers arrived to the present day Virginia. The day of thanks did not include feasting, but was merely thanks to God for a safe arrival.

The first Thanksgiving including a feast and fellowship was when the pilgrims landed into the “New World” in 1620. Men, women and children – calling themselves the Saints – landed in this new place via the Mayflower. The people they encounter are referred to as the Strangers, or Native Americans.

It is said by some the Mayflower hit land in November, where a meeting was later formed to create an agreement between the Saints and the Strangers. This would be known as the Mayflower Compact. Whether or not this is accurate is subjective.

Thanksgiving: A new holiday

It wasn’t until under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln in 1863 that Thanksgiving became an official observance on the last Thursday of November. Before then, it was inconsistently recognized, due to poor years of harvest and crops. The only change made after Lincoln was when Franklin Roosevelt changed the date to the third Thursday in November.

While this is the story Americans choose to believe, it is not a universally shared view. Those of Native American descent have a different, less attractive view of this celebration. For many Native Americans, it is a day of mourning.

Celebrating Thanksgiving – for what it is worth

It is easy, and understandable, to become affected by one’s personal views of this holiday. But perhaps Thanksgiving could be a time to refocus your definition of the holiday. Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to focus on what really matters: your present day blessings. Figure out what works for your family, and start creating a new Thanksgiving tradition.